Wild Things: Life as We Know It
Caterpillars, Frogs, Big Birds and More...
- By T. A. Frail, Jesse Rhodes, Jessica Righthand, Brandon Springer and Sarah Zielinski
- Smithsonian magazine, October 2010
Maud Island Frog (Leiopelma pakeka) endemic, primitive species confined to Maud and Motaura Islands, Marlborough Sounds, South Island, New Zealand. (Tui De Roy / Minden Pictures)
Name: Leiopelmatidae, a family of primitive frogs native to New Zealand.
Leap: By extending their hind legs, like other frogs.
Land: On their bellies—unlike frogs that evolved more recently, which land on four feet to absorb the shock.
Lesson: If a group of primitive frogs belly-flops, it suggests that the common ancestor of all frogs did as well. In other words, “frogs evolved jumping before they perfected landing,” according to the study by Richard Essner of Southern Illinois University and others. As for Leiopelmatidae, he says, “these guys are small, so bad landings aren’t as big of a deal.”
“Mechanical Analysis of Feeding Behavior in the Extinct ‘Terror Bird’ Andalgalornis steulleti (Gruiformes: Phorusrhacidae),” Federico J. Degrange et al., PLoS ONE, August 18, 2010
“Landing in basal frogs: evidence of saltational patterns in the evolution of anuran locomotion,” Richard L. Essner Jr. et al., Naturwissenschaften, July 13, 2010
“Apparent competition with an invasive plant hastens the extinction of an endangered lupine,” Emily M. Dangremond et al., Ecology, August 2010
“Visceral-Locomotory Pistoning in Crawling Caterpillars,” Michael A. Simon et al., Current Biology, August 24, 2010
“Frequency synchronization of blue whale calls near Pioneer Seamount,” Michael D. Hoffman et al., Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, July 2010